Sailor Speak of the Week – Yardarm

Definition

Noun

  • The outer portions/tips of a yard (the athwartship spars that hold square sails).
  • The athwartship spar on naval, merchant, and recreational vessels for mounting signals.

Origin

15th century.

Comments

This term only applies to the outer sections of a yard, not the entire yard itself. During the age of sail, signal flags would be flown from yardarms. Sailors who were court-martialed and sentenced to death by hanging would also be hung from a yardarm.

References

King, D., Hattendorf, J.B, & Estes, J.W. (1997). A Sea of Words: A Lexicon and Companion for Patrick O’Brian’s Seafaring Tales (2nd Ed.). Owl Books.

Rogers, J.G. (1985). Origins of Sea Terms. Mystic Seaport.

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